The man behind some of the most evocative, heart-halting, hard-hitters Dub Police ever blessed us with, Subscape has returned this week with this first material since early 2014’s I Would Have Loved You on Dub Police’s Past, Present & Future album.
Momentarily departing the game to refocus his time on his loved ones and reprioritise his life, at the time he had a debut album teetering on the brink of release and was hinting at a broader style. Building on the variety and emotional range of his most successful release (2011’s Universal EP) the last tracks he left us with such as I Need You left us craving more…. None of us had any idea that more would land almost four years later or come in the form of Mallet and Ease The Pain.
The first non-Caspa or Rusko tracks to ever be released on Sub Soldiers, Mallet and Ease The Pain literally pick up from where he left us: they were the next planned single he was going to release in 2014. Rebuilt with 2017 production muscle and delivered a wry sense of unexpected expectancy, they’re the sound of a re-inspired man who has reconnected with his music, his roots and his life in general.
There’s a lot more to come, too. He might not have released anything in the last four years, but he’s been amassing a massive body of work that will eventually turn into the album some of us have been waiting for since he first came through in 2008.
Welcome back Subscape. Time to be reacquainted…
Can we call this a comeback or just a really slow release schedule?
We can definitely call it a comeback. 2014 was the last release and that seems crazy to me that it’s coming up to four years now. I feel like I haven’t left. I know I have left, it’s been years since my last release, but it feels the time is right to be coming back. I’m not relying on music for a living now. I slowly found that I had less and less time to devote to the studio after going back to work and I did struggle to write for a while, but now I feel I’ve got the perfect balance between the two and I’ve got stacks of ideas and a positive outlook.
That changes the way you approach your work doesn’t it?
Yeah totally. So now I’m not solely relying on the DJing and production, it gives me time to be creative when I want to be creative. It comes when it comes. It’s no pressure. They say you only have a few creative hours each day and you might have missed that; it could be in the morning, the evening, whenever, mine was always sporadic and making sure I always caught those creative moments became a little stressful for a while.
So why did you take a break?
I’ve been catching up with close friends and family and loved ones who needed me around at the time. I didn’t see a lot of them over those years and it was at great personal expense. It’s important for anyone’s personal wellbeing to remains grounded and find your bassline and I needed to look after myself and draw a line in the sand for a while. But I haven’t been doing nothing. I’ve always been writing and developing ideas during this break. I actually had an album almost ready to go at the time, I was doing a lot of final tweaks, just making sure it was absolutely perfect, but obviously it never came out.
So while this time away from DJing and releasing has passed I’ve been slowly adding to it and now have an excess of 40 tracks. No one’s heard them before; only me, Caspa and Gary J the label manager. I’ve been sitting on them because it felt there was no scope to be releasing because there wasn’t a release plan or date or deadlines. So I’ve just been writing because I enjoy writing the music. I’ve written a bit house, a bit of drum & bass, a bit of stuff that I can’t even put my finger on and categorise…
That sounds like the best type of stuff!
Yeah just making music. No limitations. It gave me time to think about what I wanted to make and release in the future. I was always coming back. How could I not after all the work I’ve put in and shows I’ve played? But I wanted to take it back to the time when it all started. When I wasn’t relying on the music and just spent time being creative for the love of it. It’s easy to step back into the groove but I wanted to do that with a refreshed mindset.
It’s easy to step into the groove. But how about stepping out? What was it like when you had less gigs and realised you weren’t so busy?
You know it wasn’t a shock because it was what I wanted to do; really spend precious time with friends and family. I live in Woking and love seeing the usual faces and for a while mates would be like ‘what are you doing here? I thought you’d be jet-setting around the world!’ But that wasn’t what I wanted to do at the time. I’ve always been pretty reserved and shy from the limelight, I just loved making the music and the actual thrill of DJing and playing music to people.
You started pretty young, right? So did you feel you missed those golden era days of your late teens / early 20s because you were accelerating in your music career?
Best days of my life! I still saw mates and I used to pay for them to come out with me. So if I was in Belgium I’d pay for their flights and hotel and they’d come with me and we’d have a fucking ball. But as time goes by mates move away, get married, have kids and all that. So yeah I did miss my mates but I also made a new set of very close friends at Dub Police. We were such a close-knit group of people; Caspa, myself, Trolley Snatcha, Emalkay, The Others. At that time it was fucking awesome. That was the scene for me. I was in that bubble; almost anything else happening outside of Dub Police didn’t matter. They were such good times.
Let’s go back to those early releases like Tomahawk and Badman. Raw tracks! Take me back to that time
That was a great time. I was still playing vinyl, cutting 7” dubplates. It was so exciting and those first releases are special for any new producer. For me it was, and still is, about writing something that hasn’t been written before. How you’re defined from everyone else. I’d come from drum & bass and you can hear those influences in my early productions. But as I was writing, trying to find something different, the melodic sound was really resonating for myself and for fans. At the time it felt like that wasn’t anything out there; Nothing’s Wrong was received really well as a liquidly sounding dubstep tune.
Back then then a lot of people were bro-ing very hard
I didn’t have the capacity to make those really heavy hitting tunes. That melodic style was what I vibed out on the most in the studio and what sat well the most with me. I felt natural with that style and honest.
The Universal EP felt pivotal in that way. It hinted at even more progression
I think so. Turn Me On did so well for me. I still hear people talking about it today. That EP was an anchor of an era. That was such a good time, for me and for dubstep – there was so much good stuff being released at the time.
A lot of people comment on how Turn Me On as a classic now. That’s got to be a good feeling?
I think the best feedback is when people tell me the music takes them back to a time in their life; it reminds them of a loved one or a relationship or a special moment. Like when you smell something and you get that nostalgia. It’s great hearing stuff like that; how strong that attachment is to music and emotions and memories. Turn Me On definitely had a lot of those stories. And that track got written in a few hours – it flowed straight out of me.
Like all the best tunes. So back to the future, if you’ve got 40 tracks it must have been a big decision which tunes to pick to come back with.
Those two tracks were going to be the next single back in 2014. Obviously they’ve been tweaked and refined since then but it’s picking up from where I left it last time. For a while I thought I’d come back with the full album but I wanted to test the water first. Sadly with albums, tracks get overlooked too easily, so I’m seeing how it goes, seeing what people like and seeing if anyone is interested really. The feedback has been amazing and everyone’s been really welcoming and supportive.
It’s cool because neither track rests on your old signature too much. They develop your sound again…
Yeah they’re not classic Subscape styled tracks are they? But that was the original planned single from way back when and I think it’s an honest way to start again – exactly where I left off. And in the meantime I’ve got so many different styles and sounds and tempos and genres to release in the new year.
Is there a plan or are you seeing what the reaction is like to certain styles?
I’ve got 40 tracks to pick from so I can take it every single way possible. There is a plan, though, and that plan is to release the ones I’m happiest with and feeling the most. Those 40 tracks are constantly being added to so the pot of tracks to pick from is getting bigger and the options are multiplying. But after this single the album will be released in a staggered EP series.
Like Caspa’s 500. So that’s probably the biggest change you’ve had since leaving the scene; how albums are digested now. What other changes you have noticed?
There’s been a lot of changes in dubstep. The genre constantly suffers attention deficit disorder. It pings off in so many different directions. But it feels refreshingly mixed and energetic at the moment. It’s an exciting time to come back to the scene. What I’ve always loved is how people take it into their own hands and make it into what they want to make. That’s how it should be. People can get quite protective over their little part in dubstep but I was guilty of that too; I lived in the Dub Police bubble and didn’t pay a massive amount of attention to anything else going on.
There seems to be more encouragement of experimentalism from fans. Truth, for example, can release anywhere from Disciple to Deep Medi
Yeah definitely. Another big change is how people aren’t so focussed on the labels. Before now you needed to be on a big label to get releases out there and get yourself know. You don’t seem to need them as much – you can build up followings in different ways and people seem a lot freer to do what they want. It’s changed from being what the label is doing to what the artist is up to which I’m really happy with; the label doesn’t carry my identity, I do and I get to explore what that identity is on its own terms. And it starts with the this new single.
And then the album!
Then the album… And the shows! I’m really looking forward to them and missed them more that I thought I would so yeah the album project will be nearing completion and getting ready but the shows will be first.
With a percy stash of 40 tracks I suspected those shows are almost all exclusive Subscape material!
Yeah there’s a lot of unreleased stuff deep in the mix and that’s really what I’ve missed – trying things out on the dancefloor, seeing how people react and how I can make them better. That’s not something you can do on your own in the studio. I’m exciting to see how this develops.